When we were in Long Beach for Jed and Steve’s wedding a couple of months ago, we had the happy accident of wandering into the Aquarium of the Pacific. Even though I’m originally from Long Beach, I had no memory of the aquarium and no idea that it’s as large or as beautiful as it is.
That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that the nearly $30 per person price tag is probably too much unless you really think you can spend the entire day at the aquarium (which would also be too much, in my opinion). So, here are my tips for getting a deal on aquarium admission and enjoying the exhibits while you’re there:
1 /// Don’t pay full admission unless you’re in the mood to make a generous donation to the aquarium. We weren’t going to go in once we realized how much the tickets were, but as luck would have it we arrived just about an hour before they were closing on Friday evening and it turns out that the last hour is half-price tickets for everyone. It was great to get the deal and the aquarium wasn’t crowded by then, but I do feel like we were a bit rushed so I would recommend looking into tickets through Goldstar or adding it to your GoCard Go Los Angeles itinerary. At the very least, pull out that AAA card to get a few dollars off!
2 /// If you are there late, like we were, start with the interior exhibits and hit the outside area with the shark tanks last. It’s the last part of the aquarium to close and they actually open it for free to the public for a bit before they shut the whole place down for the night, so you can enjoy that area even after the aquarium is officially closed. You just can’t go back into the aquarium building after hours.
3 /// Take advantage of the people in the exhibit areas. Everyone that we spoke to was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the animals in the exhibits. We got the impression that people love working there and their energy made it a better experience for us.
4 /// There is a cafe but the menu wasn’t very impressive and it seemed a little pricey. There are enough options in the area for tourist-y food (walk south along the edge of the water to find a boardwalk with little shops and restaurants) but we would actually recommend a great pizza place that’s only a 5-10 minute walk from the aquarium: Michael’s Pizzeria.
5 /// Take hand sanitizer and lotion with you because there are a lot of exhibits that offer a hands-on experience but most of the sanitizer pumps were empty by the time we got there. They do have a restroom on each floor but, although clean enough, they weren’t worth multiple visits for hand washing.
6 /// If you have to park your car, it’s $8 (yipes!) but with your aquarium ticket it’s just $8 for the whole day. So it might be worth it to park and enjoy the other sites in the area (the Queen Mary is right there with a free shuttle if you buy a combo admission package) since parking in the city of Long Beach isn’t cheap. If you don’t want to park, both the cab and the Uber situation is alive and well in the city. The only time we ever had to really wait for any ride when we were waiting for the free shuttle from our hotel.